While two-thirds of advisors say technology has been mostly beneficial to their firms, 61% say it would be easier to manage if their various systems were better integrated, an SEI survey released July 11 found.
Nearly 60% said that technology was one of the top factors in their firms’ continued success, though not the most important factor.
While they have the right tools, advisors say, they aren’t using them to their maximum advantage. In addition to less than 10% of advisors having fully integrated systems, 86% are still doing some processes manually instead of using technology to relieve the burden. Most advisors use technology to improve their financial planning processes (77%) or in customer relationship management (74%). More than half use technology for document management.
Advisors identified several potential benefits of better integration, namely improved end-to-end processes (40%) and client experiences (34%). Still, only 7% said their technology and software are fully integrated.
“Advisors have the right idea,” Kevin Crowe (left), managing director of products and solutions for SEI, told AdvisorOne on Monday. “The problem is getting them and their clients to recognize the benefits.”
Crowe noted financial planning programs and CRM are the two technologies advisors are most interested in. “The trick is how to leverage them to get the benefits without having to maintain them,” he said. Technology enables advisors to provide service to their clients, but having to maintain the system takes away from that time.
To get around that, Crowe said, advisors “leverage a solution that comes integrated. They reduce their number of providers.”
While a third of advisors imagine better integration would lead to better client experiences, over half admit their clients don’t seem to care about the firm’s technology and 40% say it wouldn’t be a selling point.
“Advisors don’t talk to their clients about technology,” Crowe said. “Only 15% said they would do so regularly.” What advisors think are valuable to clients are better reporting and better website experience.
Many advisors would benefit from better education or training regarding their systems. Two-thirds said they “knew enough to get by.” Just 27% called themselves “pros.” Nearly half of advisors acknowledged that integrating their systems was the most challenging aspect of technology. Deciding on which tools to purchase and determining a true return on investment were also cited as challenges.
The majority of advisors who made a technology purchase in the past year spent less than $25,000, but 10% spent between $25,000 and $49,999. Of those, nearly half said the purchase didn not include any training for staff members.
Advisors seem to recognize that buying technology without integration isn’t helping them achieve their goals, Crowe said. “It’s not about buying a technology. It’s about adopting it and having it support their goals. The answer isn’t just pouring money hand over fist into technology. Ultimately, what’s important is providing value to investors. The best way to do that is to utilize integrated technology and an advisory platform that allows them to focus on their clients.”